Meet the Artist: Cassandra Ott wallpapers the world with her creativity (literally)
Buffalo-based artist Cassandra Ott will be the featured artist at our next Bright Nights event at Brightside Coworking on Monday, November 12 from 6:30pm to 8pm (with an “after-party” dinner at Caldera Pub across the street from 8 to 9pm.
As an artist and graphic designer, her work possesses a lively kinetic energy that seems to come off the page (or make you want to dive into the picture and be part of its color, magic and whimsy). We’ll be featuring 2 of her pieces, each a creative rendering of two epic landmarks of the West – Crater Lake and Yellowstone National Park.
I never tire of her work and find that it, like a song you always love hearing on the radio, is a welcome treat that makes me happy yet delightfully introspective.
I took a few minutes to interview Cassi and ask her a few questions about her process and her current work.
1. Where do you look for creative inspiration in your work?
I am always looking, and finding inspiration in the strangest places. Sometimes it comes as a spot on the sidewalk or a cloud in the sky. I think if you are open to it, it will find you.
2. What do you do when you're feeling creatively "stuck"?
Typically, if I'm stuck it means I need to step away. I love ruling my own schedule and will go for a walk or run some errands - usually a change of perspective does wonders. I like to make projects with boundaries, like making 26 alphabet designs, or 100 scalloped patterns. It helps me to have rules to push against and assignments to keep me accountable to creating work. Also, sometimes you just have to keep pushing forward uninspired.
3. Where did you study art? Who are your influences?
My parents were really supportive of my creativity and I took classes with both my mom and dad as a kid to supplement what was offered at school. I went to the University of Cincinnati for my BFA with a concentration in photography. My parents and husband are big influences. My dad is an architect, and my mom has had many careers from fiber artist to business owner. My husband and I met in art school and were drawn to each others passion and drive for creativity. I love people who listen to their internal drive and take the steps to make things happen.
"I think we all have the capacity to see the silver linings, but it takes work."
4. While you are primarily an illustrative artist, you also possess stellar graphic design skills. How does your artistic prowess influence your graphic design, and how does your graphic design influence you art?
I relate so much to being a Gemini. I love freely creating and following my whims to make artwork, but I also love structure and rules which is why designing for clients is such a welcome challenge. I think I would get bored or lose interest following only one path, but my art practice helps me to be a better designer and my design practice helps me to be a better artist. I think the different perspectives is helpful, the freedom and the boundaries.
Am I right in asserting that you consider yourself primarily an artist who also offers graphic design? When working as a graphic designer, what types of clients make your heart sing?
I think work is always the most fun when you find people who have fun doing their job. Good energy is infectious and I can get on board with any client who is passionate about their project and wants to see it to a successful place. I hope to bring that good energy to any project that I work on. 5. Among contemporary artists, illustrators and designers, who stands out as people you admire?
I am a huge fan of Rachel Castle and Molly Hatch, both do a brilliant job of straddling the art and design realms. We also just went to Toronto to see a gallery show of the artist Casey Roberts - so very beautiful! I admire Bunny Reiss, too. What do you admire about them?
They are all producing beautiful and inspiring work and seem super down to earth.
6. I love your pictures of you with your son Silas. Do you often draw together? Are there ways he inspires you in your art that you would like to share? Motherhood has been such a wild ride. I wish we drew more together then we do... he is a super active boy and not always interested in my 'work', but when we are able to sit down and play together to make something, it is so special. He sometimes credits 'poor design' to things gone awry and has created many logos himself, so I know he is paying attention in ways I am still understanding, lol. He is always looking for a joke or to make people smile; we definitely share that trait. 7. When did you know you were an artist?
I think I have always known, and I rediscover the concept regularly. Perhaps (that sounds) cliche, but it feels true. I also regularly have imposter syndrome and don't feel like I know what I'm doing - we are all just winging it to our own degree, right?!
8. Rainbows or rainbow-colored schemes show up a lot in your work. Is there something about rainbows (or rainy days) that tend to speak to you?
I read a few years ago that no two people see the exact rainbow, because everyone's perspective is unique and the way the light and elements combine shifts from space to space. I am fascinated by the way people can see the same thing so differently. I have been investigating these optimistic, magical and fleeting phenomena as a tool to explore perspective ever since. I think we all have the capacity to see the silver linings, but it takes work.
9. You recently designed a line of wallpaper for a Buffalo-based company called Red Disk. How did this project evolve and where is this wallpaper available for sale?
I did! Red Disk was looking for local WNY (Western New York) artists to collaborate with on some contemporary wallpapers to go along with reproductions they were creating of Charles Burchfield's designs from the early 1920's. I have been working on translating artwork and sketches into repeating pattern designs and it was a great fit. All their papers are hand screened with an incredible artisanal paint made by another local company, C2. The quality of papers they are producing are incredible and I am so excited about this partnership. The full launch will happen early next year, but papers are available now and anyone who is interested can contact me for more information or samples.
10. What other current projects are you excited about?
My most exciting current project is building out our attic to become a larger studio/office. I have been working in a small room in our house for the past few years and am so excited about all the light and space I will have when we finish off our third floor this winter. It will be dreamy!